This Walking Dead article contains major spoilers.
For the past few months, Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard have been exploring the Commonwealth, the comic’s biggest postapocalyptic settlement yet. At first, this massive city-state seemed like a dream of the past, the rebirth of a society long gone in the wake of the outbreak that created the undead. But, like most settlements encountered by protagonist Rick Grimes and his friends in earlier stories, the Commonwealth was a lie with some very serious problems (although, this time on a socioeconomic level instead of, you know, murder).
Well, the fallout from recent events at the Commonwealth, which saw Rick become the figurehead for change at the settlement, marks a major turning point for the comic book. In The Walking Dead #192, Rick dies of multiple gunshot wounds, murdered by Sebastian, the cowardly son of the Commonwealth’s deposed former leader, Pamela Milton.
In a cruel touch by Kirkman, Rick dies, not surrounded by the people he cares about the most, but alone in his room, with no one to stop him from turning into a walker. To add to the pain of this major loss, it’s Rick’s son, Carl, who finds his undead father. Carl is forced to put down his father once and for all, putting a bullet in the old hero’s head.
The Walking Dead #192 marks the end of the comic’s fourth omnibus-sized compendium, which usually means the story is about to shift in a major way. Rick’s death is the biggest status quo change yet, though, as the comic has killed off the character it has followed in one form or another for 192 issues. How the comic and its characters move forward from this tragic turn of events will be the major question of issue #193, which is out on July 3 and begins a new arc. That story is simply titled “The Farm House.”
While Rick leaves some very big boots to fill, Kirkman and Adlard should have no trouble latching onto another central character, since the book has such a large ensemble cast. The most likely choice is, of course, Carl Grimes, whom we’ve also been following since the earliest days of the comic. Not only is he the logical heir apparent, but he’s grown up in the new world, under his father’s wing, and suffered major losses just like everyone else. The Walking Dead has really always been as much Carl’s story as Rick’s. Now, as the last Grimes standing, Carl could take the reins and take the book in a new direction. It could honestly use a refresh.
Kirkman talked to The New York Times about this latest twist, explaining the reason he finally decided to bring Rick’s story to an end:
I knew that he wouldn’t survive to the end from the very beginning. It’s always been in the back of my mind that he can be taken off the table for story purposes. When I started developing the Commonwealth arc, I knew that we were going to get to this community that had some very distinct flaws, but was the first real solid step toward getting back to civilization, a place that has restaurants and has an infrastructure and a working government, although a corrupted government. A fixer-upper civilization, if you will, and that Rick would essentially be giving his life to preserve this civilization.
Ending Rick’s life wasn’t an easy decision for Kirkman, though. In fact, he’s still coming to terms with the death: “It’s something I’ve had planned for a long time. It’s a weird feeling for me because it’s been so inevitable. I’ve kind of been dealing with it, preparing myself for it emotionally for years. It’s still upsetting. I haven’t built to a character death for as long as I have with Rick.”
As for how this latest death will affect the TV series, that’s anyone’s guess. After all, the show technically “killed off” Rick last season in order to free up Andrew Lincoln to star in the upcoming Walking Dead movies. While it’s unknown where an injured Rick was flown off to after his climactic faceoff against the walker horde headed towards the communities, some theories point to the Commonwealth, which could be introduced in a movie before making its way to the show, if at all.
If that’s indeed the case, then Rick might face a similar fate to the comics, with one of these upcoming movies ending in his death. Of course, the TV universe won’t have Carl Grimes to pick up the pieces. This story sure is grim, isn’t it?